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Show Dilemma - Kids

Greetings folks,

I’ve just come off a couple straight weekends of outdoor craft shows
and for both shows my biggest complaint has been kids (or perhaps the
problem is really parents who let their kids freely roam, touch,
manipulate, etc.). I’ve got all three Bruce Baker CD’s and I know he
touches on this topic, but his example - having to do with
"electricity & children" not going well together" doesn’t help me
much. Not having ever had children, I’m not very good at handling
them in these situations; and I’m at a total loss at how to deal
with this issue.

My two primary problems over these last two shows (and there have
been others) have been sticky fingers on pearls and an apparently
inviting basket full of colorful knit wire bracelets. I don’t think I
need to explain to anyone who works with pearls that ice cream, sno
cone and chocolate covered fingers should not be picking up and
handling pearls handknotted on silk. And the bracelets just seem to
be a kid-magnet. They’ve all got 16 gauge wire cores gently shaped
into a “C” and closed with handmade clasps… multiple times at both
shows a kid would reach in and grab a bracelet, open the clasp and
stretch the bracelet out straight. The wire is stiff enough to
maintain the “C” shape when the clasp is opened, and I will generally
take the opportunity to show a prospective customer the best and
easiest way to put these bracelets on; but one bracelet was assaulted
in this fashion so many times I finally had to remove it from the
table and will probably have to hammer it back into shape. This
gauge is pretty sturdy, but they’re not meant to be handled in this

I have tried having candy on hand for these incidences, but once the
wrapper is off (and thrown on the ground in my booth), and the candy
is gone, they’re right back at it. I can’t afford to have a giveaway
any more costly than a couple bags of candy… and many times, parents
won’t allow their kids to take it anyway (though they will allow them
to manhandle my things… go figure).

I cringe at the thought of “anti-kid” signage (I do have kids in my
life who I absolutely adore, but they’re much better behaved than
these examples)… though would be interested in hearing if anyone has
used something like this successfully.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has experienced this dilemma,
though I was unable to find anything in the archives relating to it
(perhaps I wasn’t using the right search terms). I’d love to hear any
useful tips, suggestions or clever devices folks have incorporated
into their show routines to deflect these heart stopping experiences.
There have been many times when a parent of a poorly behaved child
has actually purchased something, so the added issue is paying
attention to the sale opportunity while keeping the kids from
destroying inventory.

I had no idea moving from wholesale to retail would prove to be so



I get around this my having a few robust child attractive things out
on display that are decorative but also for sale, ie: small geode
halves and some cast glass animals that I make as garden ornaments.
This means our proper wares remain relatively unmolested. I agree
that the adults in charge should show more responsibility for their
charges but ofetn the people who let kids touch things with
chocolate covered fingers tend to be the ones who will pick up an
item, look at the price and then THROW the item back on the table
with a distainful look. Left to the customers devices, your array
will soon look like closing time at a car boot sale. No wonder these
children acquire bad habits, they only copy their elders.


My daughter does jewelry also, and most of hers are inexpensive
pieces aimed at the teen/young twenties market. We place this at easy
touching level, and they give the kids something to pick up and put
down that is safe for them. I keep more expensive, more delicate
work at a height that doesn’t entice the kids as much. If you keep
anything particularly attractive to kids close to you that will
eliminate a good bit of handling by kids, as they tend to stay
farther from the salesperson.

That said, I really have never had a problem with this. Parents have
generally been very good about talking to kids about looking, not
touching, and I’ve even had older kids say that to younger kids. My
mom used to tell us to hold our hands behind our backs when we went
to museums, etc. and I have on occasion said that to a child having
particular trouble keeping control of his/her hands.

Another thing I have seen one jeweler do was have a cheap “make it
yourself” stringing station to involve kids.

If dirty hands are the trouble, try having some wet wipes on hand,
and the minute a kid reaches for something, be proactive and say
"here, let me clean you hands for you and show you how to properly
examine fine jewelry", and then clean their hands, show them the
piece, explain what it is made of and how and what makes it special.
The kid will either love it and become involved, involving the
parent, or make a quick escape. Either way you have protected your
jewelry and let anyone else in the booth know about your work and how
to handle it correctly.

It is also not at all uncommon to have signs saying that anything
broken or damaged must be paid for, and I know I have seen a cute
one aimed at parents about kids and damage, but can’t remember what
it said. But in a humorous way it let parents know they had better
corral their kids…something about unattended kids would be put to
work or something…sorry I can’t remember!

I do artist residencies in the schools, and sadly have found that
too many parents have NOT taught their children how to behave in any
situation with decorum, manners and control. Nor have they been
taught that their actions will come with consequences. I can’t tell
you how many kids have been floored when I tell them if you do this,
you will be not be permitted to continue today - and then I enforce
it! It is clear they have been taught that grown ups say these things
and don’t mean them. I come as a shock to them! I say it AND mean it.

In that line, perhaps clearly welcoming each child, and stating the
rules and offering a wet wipe up front might help. At least it will
put the parents on notice, and the child on notice that you are
aware of what they are doing!

I’ll be interested to see what everyone else suggests.

Beth in SC who has only one kid, but has a Suburban because she is
so often driving 6 or 7 kids!

I understand and sympathize with your dilemma. When Metalwerx
displays works of others at our education booth, we get people
leaning on cases, coffee cups on the cases, or on the floor, candy
wrappers, kids that want to touch, etc. Despite obvious waste paper
baskets, I make an effort to teach anyone who helps me in the booth
to stay on top of those by asking nicely, “can I hold that for you
while you take a look at the work?” Grateful observers either hand
over their coffee cups or ask immediately, “do you have a
wastebasket?” Always, always, have some backup in your booth. A good
opportunity to teach somebody the ropes of what you learned.

I think candy, chocolate especially works nicely, a little bling
recharge gift, but it is also placed in obvious eyesight of the waste
basket. The visual connection is made.

For kids, I have a section just for them to touch. Those kids for us
are a key target audience. Get them interested and then the parents
always hang around and become grateful. Understandably, we cannot
sell work at these shows, but are drumming up leads for classes.
However, we are responsible for all of the work because it is our
students and faculty members, not mine alone.

I bring along some indestructible “baubles” for the kids to handle
and maul. When they leave with sticky fingers, a quick wipe with a
disinfectant and we are good to go.

People are naturally curious and we try to capitalize on that.

For you, I would get the family’s attention and bring out something
that is OK to handle, but place it on a velvet or fabric covered pad.
You elevate the quality and price by presentation and even kids
naturally slow down to touch the pretty jewelry. You can command
respect in your booth. You set the tone, approachable but respectful.
People will follow suit. If your work is out on lots of little cards,
it’s subject to pawing over. They do it in Macy’s, why not you?
What’s the difference. YOU are the difference. It’s your work, your
blood, sweat and tears. Look at the amount of marketing Macy’s does
to get you to the point of looking and pawing, but the work is mass
made. Yours is not.

My thought is engage the kids first, set the respectful tone with
them and the parents will beam. Be kind to everyone, but you set the
boundaries of what is and what is not acceptable.


School for Jewelry and the Metalarts
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
781 891 3854


In these situations, I walk over to the child and ask some version
of the following:

“May I show you something?”
“Is this for your mother?”
“Would you like that wrapped?”


while gently removing the offending article from their grubby little


I cringe at the thought of "anti-kid" signage 

And, anyway, these little ones can’t read…

Generally, children respond to being treated like people. Smile,
look them in the eye, and say in a friendly but firm voice (benign
authority) “I’m sorry, sweetheart, but please don’t touch, just
look.” Then maybe follow up with “Is that your favorite color?” or
the like. Only the most obstreperous child will fail to respond to
calm, firm, clear instructions from a stranger. They are just
curious, and probably bored.

If this is a constant problem, your display is probably too low.


Can You place the jewelry out of reach of children but still
accessible to adults? I have a very grabby 5 year old child & its
exhausting keeping vigil on her every where we go. If it was out of
reach that would solve the problem for You because You wouldn’t have
to confront the kids & risk insulting the parents. The other thing is
please don’t hesitate to educate your booth visitors with a little
Ask the Children in a firm clear, loud & very friendly
voice Welcome to my booth But I’ll ask You children to PLEASE not
handle the handmade jewelry! Kids have a short attention span & You
might have to strongly remind them a few times. (Always with a
positive smile) You might comment on how they have a good eye for
things beautiful, but please don’t touch.

The free candy isn’t addressing the problem. My grabby child will
listen if someone gives her straightforward instructions. It also
helps to praise kids who are listening to your request. Thank You for
being such a good listener! I really appreciate it! I personally
would move Your things a little higher!

Good luck
Mary R

Hi Karan,

I have had the same problem as you with unsupervised kids. My
jewelry is primarily glass. If I see a kid make a beeline for a
hanging necklace or earrings in a bowl, I go over to them and look
them in the eye saying that it is made from glass. Usually, that gets
the parent’s attention and then they tell little Johnny or Susie to
not touch. If it doesn’t, I tell them nicely that if they would like
to see something, that I will handle the piece to show them and they
can look at it. Sometimes, it’s merely a look that I give the kid,
like an “I’m watching you look.”

I then tell the kid it’s glass that I bake in an oven and it gets
really hot to melt. Their eyes become round as saucers, they are
impressed, my jewelry is safe and the parent will appreciate the mini
lesson and walk away happy.

In your case, taking a more direct approach and getting down on
their level to talk to them, might be an opportunity to educate a
young mind into understanding a piece of beautiful art and fragility
of the item as well as giving them what they appear to be craving:
attention. Perhaps if you explain briefly how a pearl is made and
then tell them you will show them the item instead of having them
touch it, might be a good way to handle it.

If a kid is insistent and the parent is ignoring the kid, I nicely
tell the parent that the jewelry is glass and will break if not
handled properly. I haven’t had to get any more firm than that.

Handling the public, including kids, can be tricky. I don’t have
kids either, but I have worked with kids over the years. Getting down
to their level, taking the time to explain how something is made, in
simple terms, makes all the difference in the world.

Good luck!


Feeding them no… Raise the basket of bracelets higher.

And it is ok to say to them please do not touch! and NO

Most know they are not supposed to touch and are pushing the
boundries unsupervised.

I have stopped many with a frown and a you know better than that!

Silver & Cameo Heritage Jewelry

This is an interesting thread and a problem I’d not considered. As a
parent, the kind of behaviour you talk about infuriates me generally.
Why can’t parents get their children to behave (sweeping
generalization - sorry)?! I have brought up four children and
throughout their lives up to now have been complimented on their
wonderful and polite behaviour. It’s not difficult to instill good
manners and habits into one’s children. Now they are older (eldest 21
and youngest 13) they all tease me if we go into a shop with lovely
things to look at, repeating what I always used to say to them when
they were little, "look with your eyes, NOT your hands!). I always
taught them to respect their own and other people’s
possessions/property and they do to this day and will hopefully
instill the same manners into their children.

Sorry, personal bugbear - don’t get me started!

Helen Hill


I do a show at an outdoor market once a week, plus juried outdoor
shows in the area when they come up.

I’m assuming that the parents are overwhelmed w/ the beauty and have
lost total track of reality…the kids. (wink, wink)

What I tell the kids in as nice a tone of voice possible is to
"Please be careful. That is very precious and I don’t think your mom
(dad) wants to pay for it if it breaks (as I remove it gently from
their hands)". Usually gets the parent’s attention and usually they
get right on the kid. I think it’s perfectly fine to intervene w/
“touch with your eyes, not your hands.” Used that a few times, as
well. The former teacher does come out in me.

I have been pleasantly surprised how well-mannered most of the kids
are and how on top of it the parents are; but then there have been a
few and the above statements gets their attention. (I also have a
large basket of tumbled stones to offer for free (3-4 per kid) that
my hubby the rockhound tumbles from trimmings…I put them to work
looking for stones while mom looks at the jewelry). It’s amazing how
many people have talked about the rock tumblers they had as kids!

Kay Taylor

As a parent, I am always pleased when a vendor politely but firmly
tells my child " I’m sorry. You may not touch the jewelry" or
whatever item my child happens to be touching. Or you can say “You
may look at that jewelry, but you may not touch it.” You need to
look the child right in the face when you say it, again with that
friendly but firm smile. I tell my children the same thing, but it’s
always nice to have the firm yet still friendly reinforcement from
the seller.

Children are often eager to obey and please, but they need to be
told exactly what to do or not do, in a clear straightforward
manner, with as few words as possible. Hints and looks don’t work
with a child, especially the inquisitive or excited child. It does
help to tell the child exactly what he or she can do, as “you may
look but not touch. You may walk in this area, no jumping.” - that
sort of thing.

It also alerts me to the issue, in case I hadn’t seen them touching
it in the first place.

It’s quite possible for a vendor to do this in a friendly,
non-judgemental fashion.


Hello Karan,

Yes, unrestrained children can be a problem. Enticing the little
fingers to something else seems to work for me. That, plus moving
the fragile, delicate, non-kid friendly items to higher levels or
behind glass!

I make up gobs of simple wire rings (silver twist wire) in sizes
from 1 - 11 or so. It takes surprisingly little time and when a gob
has been completed and tumbled, I’m good for most of the season.
Those bands sell very reasonably and are just loose in a box at kid
level for easy fingering. Adults like them too and I frequently sell
rings to nearly every member of the family. Oddly enough, I don’t
think many have been “lifted” without being paid for, and if they
were, the loss is minimal.

Good luck. I’m curious to see how others have handled it! Judy in
Kansas, where the temps are heading to the upper 90s and no rain in
sight. That’s a relief for the poor folks in the SE corner, who are
cleaning up from a nasty flood.

As a follow up to my last post regarding the behaviour of children:

As an adult, I even ask the proprietor of a shop, showroom, booth,
etc if it’s ok for me to pick something up and look. I would never
just assume that it’s ok to handle someone else’s property and my
children have learned to do the same.

On a practical level of what you can do to aleviate this problem,
I’m not sure. If one were to put up signs saying something like
"Please look with your eyes, not your hands", chances are that no
matter how big it was, parents of children like the ones picking
things up, and their children would either not notice its existence
or would just simply ignore it. And it may put other, genuine buyers
off, thinking you were being unfriendly. I’m not very helpful am I?!

Helen Hill

This has been a good thread, and I think there is more here than
just how kids act in a craft show. As humans, we like to touch
things. It’s part of our nature. We visit a museum when we are kids
and want to get close to a painting or touch the sculptures and we
can not! When I was a kid, I learned early to politely to excuse
myself to the restroom and then wander into some part of the museum
where I could get a closer look. My drive for all things 3D was
stifled by my parents until I was allowed to take a ceramics class as
a high school senior and LOVED it and made straight A’s throughout
the year.

Maybe I should go to art school? No, I can’t draw and in my house,
that was the barometer.

These annoying kids are the makers of tomorrow. They are curious,
put their busy little hands on everything. We didn’t have museums
like you have today where there are interactive exhibits. I am
certainly not condoning that kids should run amok, but should be
trained to slow down where I can create a mini interactive

Somebody suggested stringing a few beads in their booth for kids.

I’m sure if we started a thread of "comments heard from ADULTS"
during shows, they would be far worse than what kids do. Usually the
kids that come into our booth are very well behaved.


School for Jewelry and the Metalarts
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
781 891 3854

Dear Karan,

We mostly have this problem solved in our booth. We bought a small
box with a hinged lid at a craft store. It is all sequined and fancy
looking. We fill it with really inexpensive trinkets from Fire
Mountain, a supply place you’ll find on-line. We use whatever they
are clearancing out- coin replicas, scarabs, tumbled stones, carved
hematine pieces, etc. We place this box of goodies down on a low
shelf- almost ground level. When kids enter our booth, we greet them
and their parents and invite them to open the “treasure box”. We tell
them they may choose one item and take it with them. We give them a
small ziploc bag to put it in. There are hundreds of things in this
small box to choose from, and it does a pretty good job of occupying
a child while the parents shop. The kids are content and not touching
your designs, the parents can actually look at your merchandise and
maybe buy something, plus most parents think you are really
thoughtful for giving their kids something, creating a general
feeling of good will in your booth. There is a small expense
involved here, but if you buy with price in mind, it is minimal-mere
cents per child.

The hands down favorite with kids are the hematine pieces- carved
owls, dolphins, turtles, etc.

Two things to keep in mind; make sure it’s ok with the parents, and
don’t offer it to children who are young enough to pop it in their
mouths. Just a little common sense.

Take care.
Brenda Nesheim-Fuller
Nesheim Fuller Design

I don’t mind kids whose hands are clean and are careful… and
that’s usually all I get. I don’t do a lot of outdoor events and the
ones I do I frankly tend to rally against the addition of kids
activities. To be fair these aren’t craft fairs they are art shows
and ~I’m~ the one on the bottom of the bracket! So there aren’t a lot
of kids and there tend not be any major source of sticky. Frequently
I’ve been talking to a small child who has been very well behaved and
is asking me questions and I’m happy to answer and the moment one
clean finger comes timorusly out ( and I say at this point ‘go ahead
but please be careful’) the parent vultures down from nowhere and
drags the poor dear off by a wrist. Even more frequent is the
reverse, a parent thinks they have a quiet moment is about to look at
my jewellery and ~they~ are dragged off by the wrist. I’ve had very
little luck selling to people wrangling children.

I’ll echo the raise the hight of the display, mine don’t even start
till waist hight off the ground (my waist and I’m 5’8") and continue
up, I thought looking at stuff without a lot of bending would be a
nice change for people and one of the side effects is only the kids
who are actually interested stop to look.

And I’ll gladly take stupid comments form kids such as “I can make
that if I go the bead store!” my reply “But those aren’t beads, and I
make them myself.” Over the more difficult to answer insulting
comments from adults such as "Oh what a lovely hobby you have here!"
stab stab stab stab

Hang in there.

Norah Kerr


I have two children myself and do shows. Both children would be
quite grabby given the opportunity.

I guess what I am finding disturbing about some of the messages from
other Orchid parents is that they seem to think it is at least
partially the artist’s responsibility to deal with or entertain their

When I am in the middle of a sale, I really don’t want to have to
stop and cajole, entertain or discipline somebody else’s children. I
really need to be working. When I take my children to a show I
understand that it is MY job, not anyone else’s to keep my kid’s
entertained and under control. Of course there are rare occasions
when I fail, but they should be rare and this isn’t what I am seeing
in public quite frequently. Many parents seem to have given up the
idea that they are in charge all together.

I appreciate the great lengths that some of the artists here see to
be willing to go to in order to keep parents and children alike
happy, but really I think that most of those tactics shouldn’t really
be necessary if the parents are responsible. Maybe the first thing
the artist should do is look the parent in the eye and politely ask
them to intervene. I have never yelled at or been rude to a child or
parent in my booth but there have been plenty of times when it really
seemed like the appropriate response!

Karen, who had to remove a child who was trying to climb my tent pole
last weekend while the parents stood with their backs to him and
chatted with friends. The parents appeared quite miffed that I did

I must be a trouble maker, letting the little brats get away with it
against the common good of my fellow exhibitors. here is how I have
dealt with it for years:

If I put it out where it can be handled, it is because I am hoping
that if it IS handled it will might lead to a sale. I expect people
to handle things under these circumstances and kids are people too.
I don’t put things out that are esecially vulnerable to harm by

When a kid starts grabbing for something and the parents start in
with the “don’t touch!!!” message I will say, “well here is
something that they can handle.” and I then offer them a mokume
billet to play with. That way I am not contadicting the parents and
it opens up the conversation to what mokume is all about. Sometimes
if the kid is really little, I offer them the hand mirror to play
with. It is a real hassle for parents with small children to shop at
art fairs. Anything you can do to take the pressure off, even for a
few minutes is going to make the whole experience a lot better for
the parents, and well might lead to a sale.

In my storefront showroom, I use the same tricks sometimes, but it
seems to work a lot better if I introduce the kids to my golden
retriever and let them play. If the kid is a little older, and seems
like they will be interested, I offer them a tour of my workshop.
They remember things like that and they will grow up and be
potential customers in the future.

If you treat the kids like pests, that is not going to help make
sales with their parents. I still remember going to an antique shop
with my parents when I was 8 or 9 years old and being told I could
not come in. My parents made a hurried look around and left without
buying anything. I remember being very insulted, because all the
shop keeper saw was a kid and assumed the worst. I don’t want to be
that guy! I think that you can get a lot of good will with your
customers if you give a little extra consideration to their kids.

Stephen Walker

Children often mean well, you just need to set boundaries. When
children feel the compulsion to touch, pick up or just plain
manhandle my jewelry I simply look them in the eye and say “excuse
me” in a firm yet polite manner. More often than not their
parent/watcher will tell them not to touch the items for sale. This
is a polite and effective way of getting the point across without
any damage, dirt or loss of face.

There have been a few times when a group of adolescent boys came to
the table to check it out. They wanted to look at and touch the
jewelry. Due to my genuine friendliness and willingness to talk
about the pieces I made many hundreds of dollars in minutes on quite
a few occasions. Young kids also have sweeties, moms and money.

I personally find some adults to be WAY more disrespectful. Tugging,
flicking or asking if I do this “because I can’t get a real job.”